Back-to-School Budgeting

If you’re the parent of school-age kids, you know how expensive back-to-school shopping can be. This year, don’t be shocked by the price tag. Instead, use these five tips to help get your kids back to school without breaking the bank.

Take Stock of What You Have at Home

My kids came home from the last school year with packages of unopened pencils, full boxes of crayons, unopened paper, and unused folders. If you experienced the same thing, take stock of what you have on hand to avoid purchasing duplicates.

Set your budget…and stick to it!

Like anything, it’s easy to overspend when you don’t know how much you’re working with. Before you start shopping, review your list of necessary back-to-school supplies and set a limit for how much you’re willing to spend. Knowing exactly how much you can spend will help you and your family make smart choices about what you can and can’t afford. If you are new to budgeting, this year’s back-to-school spending will probably feel like a kick in the money gut. To better prepare for next year, take the total amount you spend this year and divide it by 12. Starting next month, set aside that amount monthly so you’re ready for the next back-to-school season.

Practice the phrase: “It’s not on the list.”

Making a list before you head to the store can help you save money and time. Before shopping with your child, come up with a list of things they’ll need for the new school year. That way, you’ll know exactly what to buy at the store and you’ll minimize impulse buys.

Set up a clothing swap with families in the area or take advantage of used uniform sales.
Back-to-school clothing can be a giant expense. My kids often grow out of things that are still in great condition. A clothing swap is a fun way to exchange clothes your kids can no longer wear for items that they can.

For those with children in Catholic school, check and see if your school offers used uniform sales. One of the benefits of Catholic school uniforms is that those jumpers and sweaters tend to be very well made and can live on for years past their original owners. Used uniform sales also tend to be fundraisers for the school so it’s a win/win for all involved.

Find out if your state has a tax-free weekend

Some states offer tax-free weekends that line up with back-to-school shopping. If you live in a state that has a tax-free weekend policy, take advantage of the extra savings you can get on clothes and school supplies.

Following these steps will help your family start the school year off on a good note without breaking your budget. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to engage your children in healthy conversations about finances. We’d love to hear about back-to-school budgeting tips that have worked for you. Email us at to share your ideas.

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